Super Quick Life Update: WE ARE BUYING A HOUSE!!!

NEW HOUSE:

Sorry, I’ve been MIA this month. Things have been super crazy since we’re BUYING OUR FIRST HOME!!

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I seriously am in love so hard. Sometimes when I think about it, I feel all blubbery and teary-eyed haha. It’s everything I wanted and then some! We are signing all the closing paperwork TODAY and I honestly couldn’t be more STUNNED/ECSTATIC.

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THE KIDS:

Has everyone else been like non-stop sick? Because holy moly. This month has been the WORST. We’re just barely getting over the flu and thanks, it only took us A COUPLE OF WEEKS.

 

THE WRITING:

Things have been slow as hell. This is the slowest I’ve written in years. I remember when I proudly wrote a breezy 2k a day. Now when I write two sentences, I have to stop to wipe my brow and binge watch a horrible reality show because my fingers are so tired. It’s been some rough stuff man. In November alone, I wrote 50k words. Then it took December, January, February to wheeze out 20k.

crawling

And it’s not without a reason… House hunting and house buying has become like a full-time job almost. It’s so much work and time! One other hilarious thing that has slowed me down, is I can’t get myself to stop reading my own book. Usually, when I draft I have a strict no-reading-back policy, but with this one, I’ve been pretty naughty. I’ll try to refer back to a scene ‘real quick’ and ‘hey this is kind of funny’. Suddenly 100 pages later, I’ve been sucked in and I just wasted my designated writing time. That’s a good sign though, right? I mean, I don’t know if anyone else will be turning pages, but I LOVE THIS RIDICULOUS BOOK OF MINE. AND GOSH DARNIT I AM DETERMINED TO FINISH THIS FREAKING DRAFT BEFORE I MOVE! AND I WILL! JUST YOU WAIT NAYSAYER!

(I can’t tell you too much about the book yet, but what I can tell you is that it’s a dark-comedy time-travel story about The Beatles.)

Stay tuned for more updates, book announcements, videos of the new house, so on and so forth.

Another Short Story Finds a Home

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Hey. I haven’t had a chance to share this because I’ve been so busy with NaNo but I had another short story published. Which you can read for free online in the Salt Lily Magazine…

*PG13 warning* This story is a direct modern translation of a scene from Taming of the Shrew. Some of Shakespeare’s inappropriate jokes survived the translation. Plus some swears here and there.

Even if you don’t read the story, you still should check out Salt Lily Magazine. They often feature artists and musicians and just have really great content.

 

READ HERE:

Life Update: So Much to be Grateful For

I just wanted to quickly let you know that things are going extremely well for us lately.

Dan’s job has been close to ideal. And my loved one with cancer has had a successful surgery in which they were able to remove the tumor.
2019 has been one of the hardest years of my life, but it’s ending as lovely as it could have. Each trial has been equally matched with a miracle and I’m leaving this year with even more than I started.
The biggest take away for me is the responsibility I feel to give back to others. Good and lucky things don’t happen to everyone every time. I want to remember my good fortune and work hard to help others.
So anyway! Thank you so much for the prayers and positivity. I really believe in my heart that it has made a difference and I’m so grateful to each and every person who has taken the time to read and care.
Love you.
PS Sorry for the quick and hasty writing but it is NaNo season after all. 🙂

NaNoWriMo 2019!

So I’m doing NaNoWriMo again this year. Woot woot!!!! So excited for it too. I didn’t participate last year because ya know… newborns will do that to you. But back at it again with the lofty writing goals.

  • REAL QUICK If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is… It stands for National Novel Writing Month. Authors from all over the globe attempt to write 50,000 words in the month of November. I’ve already been working on it for several days now.

Last time I did it I FREAKING CRUSHED IT. Finished my whole novel in THREE WEEKS. But I’m kind of a freak when it comes to writing soooo… Do I anticipate to do that again? Abso-freaking-lutely NOT. haha. For some reason (a reasonable reason) adding the second kid really slowed me down when it comes to drafting.

But I DID do 10k in a single day with both kids so… I could just do five of those and then… ugh. That makes me feel so tired I can’t even finish that sentence.

I’m doing a couple of things differently this year and I’m *intrigued* to see how they go.

One of the biggest differences is that I’m not going in sequential order. This is the 4th novel I’ve started and I’ve always strictly gone in order. Chapter One, Two, Three… But yeah, I’ve decided I’m not doing that this year. This time if there is a scene I’m really excited “to get to”, I’m just going to straight-up write it!

I’m also going to dabble in dictation. I’ve used it a little with outlining and blogging but never drafting. I think it would help with speed or situations where I can’t sit down and write, but I dunnnnoooo… my speech to text on both my phone and laptop are hilariously inaccurate. So if I do too much of it, I’m going to be rewriting my whole book in the editing room.

I also am going to vlog a little each day. *Try to* that is, so don’t hold me to it.

If the NaNo site fixed their links, you can see how I’m doing here:

https://nanowrimo.org/participants/val-manwill

 

A Spooky Writing Update

I went to that conference I said I was going to go to. And it was super helpful. Um, not in the way that I thought it would be though.

I had a critique workshop. And oh, boy. You know yours isn’t very good when everyone pauses before their critique and goes, “Okay, yeah… … so this one…”

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*Me, listening to their critiques with my hand on my chin.* Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Yep. Okay. Perfect! I know exactly how to fix this.

*scoops entire manuscript off the desk and into the wastebasket underneath*

I’m kind of glad. From the beginning, I knew this had some really messy challenges. It was the first novel that I had ever formally finished and even though the premise is cool, it’s extremely difficult to pin down and write… and have it make any sense.

I spent the first day of the conference mourning the unpublishable mess I had scooped together, and then the next day of the conference pushed me in a really good direction. I realized that through all of the obsession over publishing I had completely abandoned my original dream (I couldn’t think of a less dramatic way to say it haha). That dream is to one day in my lifetime, have an entire bookcase full of my own printed-out manuscripts. I’ll always aspire to be traditionally published, but I have too many book ideas to be married to just one.

The fog lifted. The direction became clear. I NEED to start writing my next book IMMEDIATELY. That has been the obvious take away from both the conference… and also from being aggressively haunted…

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Yeah, so, okay. There are muses. And then there is Lennon. I’ve already mentioned how pushy he is as a muse … it’s no joke. I COMPLETELY understand why there are THOUSANDS of books and movies (and Broadway plays even) that are all about him. Because honestly, once he picks you. You’re done. You’re writing something for him right then and there. Maybe that’s even how he continues to influence music. I mean, probably.

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I tried to read a book. A manuscript for my critique partner. And this imaginary Lennon-presence-thing would have none of it.

 

LENNON: Reading again, ay?

ME: Go away, John, this has nothing to do with you.

LENNON: Hmm, you’re right you know. How about this ol’ bookie that Cyn wrote about me, then?

ME: No, thanks.

LENNON: Let’s have a look…

ME: I already committed to—

LENNON: LET’S HAVE A LOOK THEN, SHALL WE!

 

So, whatever, I ended up switching mid-way through for one of the books that Cynthia Lennon wrote. (“John”) I read it in like a single day, because of this imaginary shotgun to the head. At the end of the book she mentions that John had once told Julian that if anything were to ever happen to him, he would send a white feather. So that anytime Julian saw a white feather he would know that ‘John was there and watching out for him’. Which I thought was a really nice sentiment.

OKAY UNTIL WHITE FEATHERS STARTED SPONTANEOUSLY POPPING UP ALL AROUND ME EVERY FREAKING DAY.

The first time, it was a cool anomaly. I was walking the boys to my neighbor’s house and there it was. A perfect pure white tail feather. I was ecstatic, because wow, what were the odds of finding a pure white feather the day after finishing that book? I took a picture even.

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awkward phone shadow bro

I began seeing white feathers every single day (still do btw). On the sidewalk, on my car, on the playground, even in the pool.

One time, we took the kids outside to play and I told my husband about how weird it was that I was finding these perfectly white feathers all over. He totally laughed at me. He said, “Okay, just because you have a little crush on John Lennon you think he’s trying to give you a sign or something…” I shrugged. Because, yeah, that was probably right. And I went inside the apartment to get the boys a drink of water…

My husband swears that right after our conversation, as soon as I shut the door behind myself, A WHITE FEATHER DROPPED FROM A BIRD AS IT FLEW OVERHEAD, RIGHT WHERE I HAD BEEN. And he got the heebie jeebies … and now he doesn’t make fun of me for it anymore…

But even after that, I was like, wow. Pretty funny coincidence…

Do I need to mention again how pushy this muse is?

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This one day, I’m coming back from lunch with the boys. I get out of my car. Notice the feather. Haha, there’s my feather for the day. Cute. Still happening. I take another step. Another feather. Step. Feather. Step. Feather.

I freaking look up to see -THIS IS NOT A JOKE OR MADE UP STORY OR PRANK PULLED BY MY HUSBAND THIS IS A REAL THING THAT HAPPENED THE OTHER DAY – small white feathers were scattered on both sides of the pavement leading all the way up to my front door.

I slowly walk inside with my children. Turn the deadbolt. And call Ghostbusters.

Anyway, long story short, I started writing a book about John Lennon. So, that’s fun!

 

5 Reasons I’m Attending an Online Writer’s Conference

Guess who has two sore thumbs from drafting and is attending a writer’s conference?

 

Writer’s Clearinghouse is having their conference completely online. And oh man, I am here for it. Here are my top five reasons why:

#1 It’s a good ice breaker since I’ve never been to a conference before

If you are an itty bitty baby writer like me, everything seems very prestigious and scary. I don’t know why I haven’t tried to attend a conference yet. Maybe it’s the imposter syndrome or the crippling insecurity… (yeah, probably that).

Or going outside in general, honestly. I didn’t even know that was a thing that other writers did. What is a sun? You mean there’s a whole world on the other side of my laptop screen?

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#2 I can attend in my own comfy house

The idea of attending a Q&A with agents and editors while wearing secret pajama bottoms under a desk is exhilarating at best. Not to mention, being a mother of small children makes leaving my house MISSION FREAKING IMPOSSIBLE.

Recently, we moved the baby into his own room and had to get creative with our office space…

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Yes. That is actually a closet. I will be attending a writing conference in the comfort of my own closet.

#3 The networking is more personable

The faculty to attendee ratio is 6:1.

Granted, at a larger conference, you would have MORE industry professionals in attendance. But having a lot of time for personal feedback is pretty dang desirable. And you really get to know the faculty you’re working with.

Authors so often feel intimidated by literary agents that they forget that they’re “shopping” too. You want someone who is going to be the best fit for your book as well as your work style. For example, I’m interested in partnering with more of an editorial agent. That makes these workshops invaluable for me because I can get more of an idea of what and WHO I’m looking for.

And if you want to talk tactical efforts, I don’t think it would hurt to leave a lasting impression on only one agent. The publishing world is so tight-knit that it would only help you to be memorable. (Favorably, of course.)

#4 A free partial evaluation from Writer’s Clearinghouse is included

WCH

Yo. Not a sponsor. But I just really dig on this company, y’all. I’ve been in and out of the query trenches for a year now. AND THEM SLUSH PILE BLUES ARE NO JOKE. I’ve seen quite a few automated rejections in my day.

Writer’s Clearinghouse is an evaluation service done by former editors and agents. It’s designed to let you know how ‘publishable’ your book is. They score your manuscript in twenty different categories picking out your strengths and things that could be improved. (I’m both annoyingly pragmatic and an art educator, so the sight of a rubrics system fills me with such a giddy glee. TAKE THAT SUBJECTIVITY!)

The most delectable part of Writer’s Clearinghouse is that if your manuscript scores high, they will notify compatible agents about it. UM YES PLEASE!

If you are interested in that sort of thing, click HERE for more information.

And finally,

#5 I’m trying to make real, tangible investments into a dream

I have a hard time spending money on myself, so it took a while for me to bring myself to register. I mean, really. How dare I spend this much selfish money on myself, when I could have used it to buy 30 kids meals for my toddler? (…I only understand currency if I convert it into chicken nuggets.)

It was my husband who finally said, “We’re spending this money and we’re investing in YOU.”  And that sure is a true thing. My dream is worth it. It’s not stupid, it’s not irresponsible and it’s not impossible either. Especially if you take actual real steps toward it, instead of just saying you’re going to do it someday.

So, go and do the thing.

… And if the thing for you is this online conference, mention me. Maybe we’ll be in the same critique group together and you can cringe over my first ten pages. It will be so fun!

I Randomly Generated an Emotional Short Story using only Shrek References

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Swamp Feelings

A Short Story
by Val Manwill

Shrek had always loved the stinky swamp with its bad, bitter boulders. It was a place where he felt lonely.

He was a green, scary, muskrat stew drinker with green skin and large hands. His friends saw him as an old-fashioned, obnoxious ogre. Once, he had even revived a dying, legless gingerbread man. That’s the sort of man he was.

Shrek walked over to the window and reflected on his muddy surroundings. Duloc teased in the distance like fighting dragons.

Then he saw something in the distance, or rather someone. It was the figure of Donkay. Donkay was a big donkey with a hideous tail and powerful fur.

Shrek gulped. He was not prepared for Donkay.

As Shrek stepped outside and Donkay came closer, he could see the important glint in his eye.

Donkay gazed with the affection of 3765 ugly fine fairy tale creatures. He said, in hushed tones, “I love you and I want friendship.”

Shrek looked back, even more gassy and still fingering the Shrekish goblet. “Donkay, ogres are like onions,” he replied.

They looked at each other with angry feelings, like two breakable, burnt blind mice saving at a very ogre quest, which had Smashmouth music playing in the background and two shreky uncles swamping to the beat.

Shrek studied Donkay’s hideous tail and powerful skin. Eventually, he took a deep breath. “I’m sorry,” began Shrek in apologetic tones, “but I don’t feel the same way, and I never will. I just don’t love you Donkay.”

Donkay looked god-like, his emotions raw like a prickly, pretty pitchfork.

Shrek could actually hear Donkay’s emotions shatter into 7420 pieces. Then the big donkey hurried away into the distance.

Not even a drink of muskrat stew would calm Shrek’s nerves tonight.

THE END
Many thanks to the plot generator for this piece of important literature: